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Courage The Cowardly Dog is about a purple dog owned by a kindly old lady and her hideously bitter husband. They live on an isolated farm in the middle of a desolate landscape that’s constantly under siege by all kinds of monsters, parallel dimensions, robots, and other mid 20th century pop culture detritus. Despite his cowardly nature Courage does his best week in and week out to keep his family from being murdered. It’s a strange show.

Courage The Cowardly Dog is one of those odd shows that paved the way for a lot of things and in the process kind of made itself obsolete. Part of the second wave of Cartoon Network’s original programming, coming after the likes of The Power Puff Girls and Johnny Bravo, Courage combined those shows sense of comic anarchism, while pushing its stylistic quirks further. Simultaneously going more abstract in its art (The farm where Courage and his family lives could double as a Krazy Kat panel) and aggressively strange in its references (take for example the insecure, whittling, giant robot, who speaks in the halting tones of Christopher Walken). A case can definitely made for the straight faced absurdity of Courage influenced on everything from my beloved Gravity Falls to The Regular Show and the current absurdist crop from Frederator.

The thing is unlike these other shows which can genuinely be called All Ages, Courage The Cowardly Dog is definitely a cartoon aimed squarely at children. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, just a product of a different creative period and philosophy. But despite the eccentricity of its art and plotting, there’s little to keep the interest of an adult viewer once the basic pattern of “Something weird comes to the house, Courage hems and haws, eventually saves the day” is cracked. It’s not that it’s a bad formula, it’s just that it doesn’t leave much to chew on. If you’re over the age of eleven there’s not a tremendous amount for you to dig into.

On the other hand, if you’re in the target audience Courage holds up as a fine show. It’s colorful and bright, the animation is expressive, the jokes aren’t half bad and it has enough personality that adults can watch it without automatically wanting to gouge out their eyes. If you’re a horror fan parent looking for a way to introduce and share the stuff you love with your kids… then give them Gravity Falls. But if they’ve already seen Gravity Falls you could do worse than throwing Courage on the stack as well.

There aren’t any extras to speak of on The DVD, but the transfers are clean and bright. A good showcase for the visuals that have held up surprisingly well.

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The Author

Bryce Wilson

Bryce Wilson

Confirmed film geek and literary nerd. Writer for Paracinema and Art Decades Magazine, columnist for the San Luis Obispo New Times and author of Son Of Danse Macabre. Resides in Austin, TX.